While bananas make an ideal snack because of their fiber and potassium content, they don’t have much of a shelf life. Sometimes it seems like they turn from green to brown in the blink of an eye! The good news is that there are a couple of tricks you can use to keep your bananas from spoiling too soon.
We talked to food science expert Trevor Craig about the best ways to make sure these bundles of potassium stay ripe and delicious — and what storage mistakes to avoid when it comes to bananas.
Why do bananas turn brown so fast?
Like certain other fruits — such as avocados, blueberries, and apples — bananas emit ethylene gas as they ripen. This gas comes from a natural plant hormone inside the fruit. Similar to hormones inside of humans, its job is to regulate the fruit’s development and growth. When a banana is ready to ripen, its ethylene production surges, causing it to turn from green to brown. The trick to keeping your bananas from going bad overnight is to manipulate the timing of this naturally occurring process.
“Bananas are sensitive fruit [that] are easy to bruise and [that] quickly turn brown and mushy when damaged,” says Craig. “When you break off a banana from the bunch, you separate its “seal,” and that allows [for] faster ripening. Storing them in bright, humid, and warm conditions (like a kitchen) can accelerate the process, and so can storing them next to other fruits.”
“One bad apple,” Craig warns, “can ruin the bunch.” In this case, it’s one bad banana.
Can I keep my bananas in the fridge?
Well, yes — and no! According to Craig, “Once they are ripe you can store them in the fridge to keep them at that perfect stage for a bit longer. But don’t expect miracles. They will still continue to ripen — just not as fast.”
The refrigerator question is a common one, but it’s also a bit of a trick. Putting your bananas in the fridge exposes them to colder temperatures, which slows down and can even stop the ripening process completely, depending on how cold you keep your fridge. So the answer is yes, you can definitely store them in the refrigerator — but only after they’ve ripened.
What is the best way to store bananas?
If you want to keep your bananas fresher longer, here are a few tips from Craig:
- Hang them. Storing them in this way not only prevents bruising, but keeps them separate from other fruits whose own ethylene emissions could cause them to ripen too quickly.
- Keep the stems wrapped. Have you ever noticed that bananas from the grocery store come with their stems wrapped in plastic? This is because most of the ethylene gas from a banana is expelled through the stems. Wrapping them slows down the ethylene gas production so the fruit ripens more gradually.
- Freeze them. Bananas can be frozen in chunks — which is a great way to use them in smoothies — or frozen whole, peel and all! Just be sure to let them defrost at room temperature before trying to get that peel off.
- If you plan on eating them sooner rather than later, pop them in the fridge. Like wrapping the stems, doing this will slow down the ripening process via the cooler temperature.
When asked how he stores his bananas, Craig says, “If they are something I plan on eating right away and are ripe I’ll wrap the ends in foil or plastic wrap and leave them in the fridge. I also will hang them and keep them away from other fruits so they are less likely to get bumped and bruised. And if they get a little too ripe and I don’t feel like eating them now… it’s smoothie time!”
Bananas are a finicky fruit, but if you take these bits of expert advice, you’ll be in good shape. So go bananas, and try these handy hacks next time you bring home a bunch.